He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesses you, and cursed is he that curses you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion.—The Hebrew labi (great lion) should be rendered “a lioness,” as in Numbers 23:24. The image of a lion connects this verse with the preceding verse: “he shall eat up the nations.” (See Note on Numbers 23:24.)
Blessed is he that blesseth thee . . . —Compare the original blessing which was pronounced upon Abraham by the Lord (Genesis 12:3), and which was afterwards adopted by Isaac in the blessing which he pronounced upon Jacob (Genesis 27:29).
Agag - The name, apparently hereditary (compare 1 Samuel 15) to the chieftains of Amalek, means "high." The words point to the Amalekite kingdom as highly prosperous and powerful at the time (compare Numbers 24:20); but also to be far excelled by the future glories of Israel. The Amalekites never in fact recovered their crushing defeat by Saul (1 Samuel 15:2 ff), though they appear again as foes to Israel in the reign of David (1 Samuel 27:1-12 and 30). The remnant of them was destroyed in the reign of Hezekiah 1 Chronicles 4:43.
Stir him up, i.e. awake or provoke him.
he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion; as he would do, and did in the land of Canaan, when conquered by Israel; they took up their residence on it quietly, and dwelt in it securely, and in no more fear of their enemies than a lion, which lays itself down and sleeps without concern anywhere:
who shall stir him up? who dare do it? as it would be a very rash, bold, daring, and dangerous thing to rouse up a lion lying down; so it is suggested it would be alike to provoke Israel to war at some certain times, in the days of David more especially:
blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee; which are the very words in which Isaac blessed Jacob, the ancestor of these people, Genesis 27:29 and which blessing is confirmed by Balaam against his will, and whereby he cursed himself instead of Israel; for though he could not curse him with words, he had cursed him in his heart, and would have done it verbally if he could (a).He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. Blessed be every one &c.] The clauses occur inverted in Genesis 27:29.Verse 9. - A lion. אַרִי. A great lion. לָבִיא. See on Numbers 23:24, and Genesis 49:9. Blessed is he that blesseth thee, &c. In these words Balaam seems to refer to the terms of Balak's first message (Numbers 22:6). Far from being affected by blessings and cursings from without, Israel was itself a source of blessing or cursing to others according as they treated him. Numbers 24:3 and Numbers 24:4 contain the preface to the prophecy: "The divine saying of Balaam the son of Beor, the divine saying of the man with closed eye, the divine saying of the hearer of divine words, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down and with opened eyes." For the participial noun נאם the meaning divine saying (effatum, not inspiratum, Domini) is undoubtedly established by the expression יהוה נאם, which recurs in Numbers 14:28 and Genesis 22:16, and is of constant use in the predictions of the prophets; and this applies even to the few passages where a human author is mentioned instead of Jehovah, such as Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:4, and Numbers 24:15, Numbers 24:16; also 2 Samuel 23:1; Proverbs 30:1; and Psalm 36:2, where a נאם is ascribed to the personified wickedness. Hence, when Balaam calls the following prophecy a נאם, this is done for the purpose of designating it as a divine revelation received from the Spirit of God. He had received it, and now proclaimed it as a man העין שׁתם, with closed eye. שׁתם does not mean to open, a meaning in support of which only one passage of the Mishnah can be adduced, but to close, like סתם in Daniel 8:26, and שׁתם in Lamentations 3:8, with the שׁ softened into ס or שׂ (see Roediger in Ges. thes., and Dietrich's Hebrew Lexicon). "Balaam describes himself as the man with closed eye with reference to his state of ecstasy, in which the closing of the outer senses went hand in hand with the opening of the inner" (Hengstenberg). The cessation of all perception by means of the outer senses, so far as self-conscious reflection is concerned, was a feature that was common to both the vision and the dream, the two forms in which the prophetic gift manifested itself (Numbers 12:6), and followed from the very nature of the inward intuition. In the case of prophets whose spiritual life was far advanced, inspiration might take place without any closing of the outward senses. But upon men like Balaam, whose inner religious life was still very impure and undeveloped, the Spirit of God could only operate by closing their outward senses to impressions from the lower earthly world, and raising them up to visions of the higher and spiritual world.
(Note: Hence, as Hengstenberg observes (Balaam, p. 449), we have to picture Balaam as giving utterance to his prophecies with the eyes of his body closed; though we cannot argue from the fact of his being in this condition, that an Isaiah would be in precisely the same. Compare the instructive information concerning analogous phenomena in the sphere of natural mantik and ecstasy in Hengstenberg (pp. 449ff.), and Tholuck's Propheten, pp. 49ff.)
What Balaam heard in this ecstatic condition was אל אמרי, the sayings of God, and what he saw שׁדּי מחזה, the vision of the Almighty. The Spirit of God came upon him with such power that he fell down (נפל), like Saul in 1 Samuel 19:24; not merely "prostrating himself with reverential awe at seeing and hearing the things of God" (Knobel), but thrown to the ground by the Spirit of God, who "came like an armed man upon the seer," and that in such a way that as he fell his (spirit's) eyes were opened. This introduction to his prophecy is not an utterance of boasting vanity; but, as Calvin correctly observes, "the whole preface has no other tendency than to prove that he was a true prophet of God, and had received the blessing which he uttered from a celestial oracle."
The blessing itself in Numbers 24:5. contains two thoughts: (1) the glorious prosperity of Israel, and the exaltation of its kingdom (Numbers 24:5-7); (2) the terrible power, so fatal to all its foes, of the people which was set to be a curse or a blessing to all the nations (Numbers 24:8, Numbers 24:9).
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